Monthly Archives: January2019

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By The Rev. David Wilson

Super_Bowl_LIII_logoWhat I look forward to at Super Bowl LIII is something that won’t be there. With the Rams verses the Patriots, there are no need for tomahawk chops or mocking drum beats from the stands. This will hopefully be a Super Bowl with the absence of degrading and derogatory chants toward Native Americans. What a novel concept. The mascots for the top two football teams in the world do not tout race-based derogatory mascots.  It’s proof that sports teams do not need to dehumanize a race or ethnic group to make money or to be commercially successful.

Had the Kansas City Chiefs made the playoffs, our conversation would be severely different. To Native peoples, our culture and heritage are an important part of who we are and how we define ourselves. It was a moment of deep pride to join in the recent Indigenous Peoples March in Washington D.C. and to see hundreds of Indigenous peoples from around the world marching in their authentic tribal regalia with all kinds of designs, colors and symbols. It reminded me of the diversity of Creator God’s beautiful creation!  No one deserves to see their heritage insulted or mocked. Yet, from elementary schools to professional sports Native Americans have been dehumanized and stereotyped all in the name of team loyalty and brand.

w620-b48b33dbc6c493be44cc76bd53839cdaI think some Americans are starting to get it. The Cleveland Indians will stop using the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms this year. We have seen a number of schools across the country change their “Redskins” or “Indians” mascot to something less offensive. These are small steps in the right direction.  For years, The United Methodist Church’s Book of Resolutions included language to prevent church meetings from being held in cities with Native American mascots. This language was not included in the 2016 version. The implications have been interesting.  The General Board of Global Ministries moved its headquarters to Atlanta, home of the “Braves.” The Youth 2019 national event will take place in Kansas City, home of the “Chiefs.” In both instances, concerted efforts are being made to educate participants and the surrounding communities about the impact of mascots on Native people. While my preference was to avoid meeting in these cities, the extra education effort is a positive outcome.

While some people mistakenly believe that mascots are harmless or even respectful, the mascots actually represent a long-running dehumanization of Native peoples. A study commissioned in 2013 by the Oneida Nation states that if Native Americans are shown images of stereotypical Native American mascots their self-esteem goes down, belief in community goes down, belief in achievement goes down, and mood goes down. The study stated these effects were primarily among Native American adolescents. Similarly, if someone who is non-Native sees a stereotypical image of Native American mascot, their association with the Native American community also gets worse.

It’s more than past time to eliminate the use of Native American symbols and images as team mascots. Any sports fan in the world can play a role in creating this needed change.

Local churches around the country will use the super bowl as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for hunger through the Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday. Thousands of dollars will be raised to address hunger in local communities. It is great to see good things connected with the joy that sports brings to many.

It will be nice to know that many are making a difference in their communities. My hope is that others can use their communities and settings to learn more about the use of Native American symbols and images and why they are important in our communities   For now, I’m happy to tune into the Feb. 3, 2019 showdown with a sense of peace that I can sit back and enjoy the game between two professional teams that have nothing to do with me as an indigenous person.

Wilson is superintendent of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

OIMC Immersion Experience Registration Form | 2019 OIMC Immersion Experience Schedule

The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) is now accepting registrations for its third annual Native immersion experience to be held March 13-17, 2019 in Oklahoma City. The experience provides history, context, and unique perspective on Native peoples in The United Methodist Church.  In addition, Oklahoma Natives proudly share their traditions and culture throughout the event.

“The immersion experience is important because it teaches you so much more than books can,” said the Rev. David Wilson, Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference Superintendent. Wilson says participants come from all over the United States to participate. “Meeting people face-to-face and learning about our ministries in the OIMC help people to better understand who we are as Native United Methodist.”

The experience is concentrated on three tribal areas which are within a two-and-a-half-hour radius of Oklahoma City.  On the first day, participants visit the Oklahoma History Center which includes information regarding the 39 tribes in the state of Oklahoma. The group then goes to Ponca City to visit the Standing Bear Park, which includes a 22-foot bronze statue of the Ponca leader.  The group will learn about Standing Bear’s role in determining the “humanity” of his people and Native peoples. The day wraps up with a panel discussion with tribal leaders from the Ponca Indian United Methodist Church.

oimc6 (1 of 1)On day two, participants are scheduled to visit the Washita “massacre” Battlefield Site in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. This is the place where General George Armstrong Custer massacred 30-60 Cheyenne, mostly women and children. The events took place two years after the massacre at Sand Creek where Col. John Chivington, a Methodist clergyman, ordered the cavalry to charge on 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho women and children.  Participants will tour the cultural center and take a guided walk through the area where the massacre took place, which is about 1.5 miles. The group will also visit the Clinton Indian Church and Community Center to hear a panel on the Washita massacre and what is currently happening among the tribal people in that area.

“It was emotional to remember the history and the people who died,” said Glenda Hill from the Desert Southwest Conference who participated in the immersion experience in March 2018. “The culture that they come from still continues today. It’s 150 years later and, thankfully, we are still honoring that culture.”

On the third day, the group will travel to eastern Oklahoma for a traditional and authentic “wild onion dinner” hosted by a Muscogee Creek church. For generations, Native people have gathered wild onions in the spring and mix them with fried scrambled eggs along with several other traditional dishes.  After the meal and visit participants will travel back to Oklahoma City to shop for Native goods and then finish the evening with a presentation from a local Native dance troupe.  Sunday morning will be reserved for participants to visit churches in OIMC.

The registration cost for the event is $225.00 per person which will cover all of the meals and entry fees. OIMC provides a chartered bus during the area tours. Participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from Oklahoma City as well as booking their rooms at the Best Western Plus Saddleback Inn and Conference Center, 4300 SW 3rd in Oklahoma City. The costs of the hotel is separate from the registration fee.

“We have had a wide variety of participants including both lay and clergy, volunteers, and United Methodists who just have a heart for Native ministries,” said Wilson. “Everyone is welcome to come and learn more about Native United Methodists and experience our culture and traditions.”

The deadline to register for the immersion experience is March 7, 2019. For more information contact the OIMC office at 405-632-2006 or via email at Dwilson@oimc.org.

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On Jan. 18, young adults from The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the first annual Indigenous Peoples March to bring awareness to injustices experienced by indigenous people around the world.

“All of creation is connected and when one suffers, we all suffer,” said the Rev. Bryan Tener, director of Connectional Ministries and Programs for the OIMC. He says indigenous voices have been silenced on issues such as access to quality health care, education, and extreme violence against Native women.

“It’s important for the OIMC, as a voice for the church, to stand with all of those who have been disenfranchised, including our own peoples. The Indigenous Peoples March is a powerful way to walk in solidarity and raise the issues that affect our daily lives,” he said.

The Rev. David Wilson, OIMC Conference Superintendent will lead the group from Oklahoma and invites other United Methodists to join them. He says participating in the march reflects the denomination’s commitment to social justice issues. OIMC supported Native leaders on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation when fighting against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016. Last year, pastors from OIMC held a vigil praying for immigrant children outside of the Brownsville, Texas detention center. OIMC has also consistently taken a stand against the use of derogatory mascots.

“I am excited that young adults will be present for the March to continue to be a voice for OIMC and The United Methodist Church to show our support for indigenous peoples around the world,” said Wilson.

United Methodists and friends are invited to gather at the General Board of Church and Society building, 100 Maryland Avenue, N.E., in Washington, D.C. at 7:00 a.m. on Jan. 18.  The main demonstration is set to take place starting at the Bureau of Indian Affairs on 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. at 8 a.m. local time.

Throughout the world, indigenous people face challenges in regard to missing and murdered Indigenous women, border control, police brutality, and protecting Indigenous lands. More than 5,000 people are expected to march including groups from Australia, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Canada and various Tribal Nations from the United States.